CIF-SS Semifinals: CSHM punches ticket to first final; Montebello baseball, La Habra softball ousted

Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary players celebrate their win overCitrus Hill after their CIF semifinal baseball playoff game at Cantwell Sacred Heart of May High School in Montebello on Tuesday May 31, 2016. Cantwell defeated Citrus Hill 4-1. (Photo by Keith Durflinger/Whittier Daily News)

Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary players celebrate their win overCitrus Hill after their CIF semifinal baseball playoff game at Cantwell Sacred Heart of May High School in Montebello on Tuesday May 31, 2016. Cantwell defeated Citrus Hill 4-1. (Photo by Keith Durflinger/Whittier Daily News)


MONTEBELLO >> Cantwell-Sacred Heart of Mary and Citrus Hill high schools have never won a CIF Southern Section baseball title. CSHM is now in position to end that trend. Citrus Hill will have to wait for another season.
Daniel Ordonez hit a home run and drove in four runs and the host Cardinals advanced to the CIF-SS finals for the first time with a 4-1 victory over the Hawks on Tuesday in a Division 5 semifinal game.
CSHM improved to 27-4 and will face top seed Woodcrest Christian, a 2-1 winner over Tahquitz, for the division title Saturday night at UC Riverside. Adrian Benitez had three hits for Citrus Hill, which finished 22-7.
The junior, who began the day hitting .273, gave CSHM a 3-1 lead in the third inning when he dropped fly-ball double between right and center field to clear the bases.
He then pushed the advantage to 4-1 with an inside-the-park homer to right-center field in the fifth.
The Cardinals then used three pitchers to hold the lead to advance.
Chris Ibarra, Andre Garcia and Zachary Thomas combined on a seven-hitter and three strikeouts, but there were some anxious moments.
The Hawks put four runners on during the last two innings, but couldn’t get the big hit when they needed it.
Garcia, who replaced Ibarra to begin the sixth, got in trouble after giving up a double by Benitez to put runners on second and third with no outs. But Garcia closed the door by striking out Jonathan Ho and Derry Williams before inducing Armando Gurrola to ground out.
Citrus Hill threatened in the seventh when the first two batters reached on a single by pinch-hitter Rene Quezada and a hit-by-pitch to Oscar Mancillas.
Enter Thomas, who retired the next three batters to send the Cardinals to their first final.
CSHM coach Larry Patino: “It’s amazing what we’ve done here in three years. People questioned me why I would take this job. But we’ve won two league championships and been to the playoffs all three years and now (we’re) going to the CIF championship (game) with a bunch of kids that absolutely love the game of baseball. Representing Cantwell with these kids has been a dream come true for me. “The funny part is our banquet was set up for this Saturday night. I (asked) my kids, ‘Do you want a banquet or playing for a CIF title?
“They said, ‘Let’s play for a CIF title … so here you go.”
CSHM’s Daniel Ordonez: “I wasn’t expecting anything. I was just trying to put the ball in play and hopefully they don’t make a play on it. That was my approach.”
— Stephen Ramirez

MONTEBELLO >> Kaiser High School baseball coach Michael Spinuzzi knew he was working with a special group of players when the seniors on his team decided to forego grad night ceremonies in order to stay sharp for a playoff game.
That was last week and the Cats came through with a narrow win the following day. On Tuesday, they took another big step toward the CIF Southern Section Division 4 championship by routing host Montebello, 11-1, in the semifinals. “We’ve had so many things happen this year and we’ve kept on battling,” Spinuzzi said. “It feels great, but we need to finish. This is the best group of kids I’ve ever been around in 16 years.”
Kaiser improved to 27-3 and will play Laguna Beach in Saturday’s championship at San Manuel Stadium. Montebello, which had advanced the furthest of any team in school history since 1952, finished 21-12.
The Cats have seemingly been swimming upstream since losing ace Nathan Geissler just a month into the season, but you’d hardly ever know it by looking at the results. Jonathan Gonzalez has filled in admirably and did so again on Tuesday.
Gonzalez gave up only an unearned run on five hits and a walk. He struck out only one, but the defense behind him was flawless. Run support was absolutely not an issue.
Kaiser jumped on Montebello starter Christian Beltran, literally, in the first inning. Leadoff hitter Oscar Rocha sent a shot that hit the Oilers ace in the ankle for a painful beginning. Kaiser scored three times in the first inning.
“Rocha hit him hard and it flustered him,” Spinuzzi said. “He probably hadn’t been hit like that before and it flustered him. It definitely flustered him.”
Montebello coach Manny Arana somewhat agreed.
“I’m sure it did (bother him),” Arana said. “But in the scope of things, they were one of the better, if not the best, team we’ve faced all year. And we’ve faced some really good teams. I’d like to see if anybody can beat them because they’re a great team.”
The game reached blowout proportions in the top of the fourth when Kaiser added five more runs to what was a 4-0 lead. Justin Wells, who went 4 for 4, picked up one of his five RBIs with a single. Rocha also had an RBI double. Both Rocha and No. 2 hitter Jason Lopez went 2 for 3. Rocha also scored three runs and Lopez scored twice.
— Aram Tolegian

MORENO VALLEY – Martha Epenesa called it the least she could do. For her Moreno Valley Valley View teammates, it was the most they could have asked for.
Epenesa delivered a tie-breaking triple in the bottom of the sixth inning Tuesday to lift the Eagles over top-seeded La Habra, 3-2, in a Division 2 semifinal. Reaching the championship game for the first time since 1999, the Eagles will face Mission Viejo on Friday or Saturday.
Valley View (27-1) extended its winning streak to 25 games and snapped La Habra’s at 26.
“It just felt like I had to be clutch in that moment,” Epenesa said. “It was the least I could do because I had made a couple of mistakes in the field.”
Epenesa’s decisive hit came a half-inning after La Habra (29-2) had completed a comeback from an early 2-0 hole.
La Habra coach Steve Harrington: “They got some hits that had eyes, we had some hard-hit balls at people. I thought we actually played an outstanding game. You can always look at a play or two, but the bottom line is that we played well.”
— Matt Jocks

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